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FIRE DISPUTE: 'EMPLOYERS ARE LYING'

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The Fire Brigades Union has hit out at employers claims that the union has walked away from talks or is refusing to...
The Fire Brigades Union has hit out at employers claims that the union has walked away from talks or is refusing to attend talks. The union also hit out at claims they were delaying the process of modernisation.

The union point to an LGA press release S23/04 dated Wednesday 31 March 2004 headed 'Fire Authorities' first inspection shows early progress'. This was in relation to an Audit Commission report on inspections it carried out in January, four months ago.

The release says: 'A report published by the Audit Commission today, which assesses the level of progress fire authorities have made towards implementing the modernisation agenda, has been welcomed by the Local Government Association. The findings of the report show that most fire authorities are improving, even at this early stage of modernising the service.

'Responding to the announcement, Cllr Jane Hobday, Chair of the LGA's Fire Executive, said: 'It's encouraging that progress has been made in the vast majority of authorities so early in this radical change as January, which is when these inspections were carried out. Of course, we expect to see even greater progress being made by the summer, particularly in overtime, duty systems and part-time working arrangements.'

Union general secretary Andy Gilchrist said: 'They said in March that progress was being made as early as January and we're four months on from that with far more progress to show. It is clearly false for them to claim that modernisation is being held up when they were singing a different tune in March.

'Recent delays have been caused by their dithering and delay. All that needed to be agreed has been agreed and it is time to pay up.

'They are also making claims we have walked away from talks. That is a lie. They claim we have been invited to talks but have turned them down. That is also a lie.

'They claim we have been invited to talks on Monday. That is also a lie. They claim we have turned down talks on Monday. And that is also a lie.'

'EMPLOYERS NEED TO SIGN AGREEMENT THEY ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE AND PAY THE 3.5% OWED SINCE NOVEMBER'

Yesterday, Mr Gilchrist said:

'We have reached agreement in principle with the employers, but they simply refuse to sign. This has held up the 3.5% pay award outstanding since November 2003 and this has caused firefighters' anger to boil over.

'We have met fully the spirit and word of the June 2003 agreement and tremendous progress has been made on modernisation. We are angered at attempts to move the goalposts time after time and attempts to renegotiate the agreement reached last year.

'Stand Down time was raised as an issue at the last minute despite the employers having agreed to it only last June. We offered a compromise on 9 May to which they have failed to respond even now.

'Firefighters have acted in good faith. We have never walked away from talks and to say we have is blatantly untrue. The employers however have been dragging their feet for over a month and are not even meeting between themselves until tomorrow.

'It is also untrue to suggest we have refused to attend talks. That is a fabrication.

'Christina Jebb's comments about sleeping for seven hours are appalling and untrue. It is indicative of the mendacity of some fire service employers that they are making such claims when firefighters can work all night without any break saving lives.'

Attached: FBU letter with compromise wording and employers only response to date.

Our Ref: AG/sr

9 May 2004

Mr P White

Assistant Employers Secretary

Fire Brigades National Employers

Layden House

76-86 Turnmill Street

London

EC1M 5QU

Dear Phil

The Executive Council at its meeting of 9th May considered the Joint Secretaries note on positions reached on the 5th May which has been the subject of ongoing discussion between our respective sides.

I can inform you that the positions contained in this note are acceptable to the Executive Council of the Fire Brigades Union.

The note also correctly states that no agreement has been reached on the issue of stand down time.

The Executive Council having considered the matter have asked me to propose the following wording on stand down time, including provision for Bank Holidays, for inclusion in the Revised Grey Book. The wording would be as follows:

Stand down time

Where the shift duty system at Section 4 Part A Paragraph 7 of the Grey Book continues to operate, employees on that system shall be free to rest between midnight and 07:00 hrs other than on those occasions where they are required to respond to emergency calls, perform work arising from emergency calls or perform other essential activities within their roles which must necessarily be undertaken during these hours.

The Executive Council believe that this proposed wording will close the one outstanding issue between us for the full and backdated payment of the outstanding 3.5% pay increase within Stage 2.

If the position set out above is unacceptable to the Employers side then the Executive Council would report that decision to Annual Conference on Tuesday 11th May with at least a recommendation to withdraw from the implementation of any of the Pay and Conditions Agreement reached between our respective sides in June 2003.

Yours sincerely

ANDY GILCHRIST

GENERAL SECRETARY

Andy Gilchrist

General Secretary

Fire Brigades Union

Bradley House

68 Coombe Road

Kingston upon Thames

KT2 7AE

11th May 2004

Dear Andy

NEGOTIATIONS ON THE GREY BOOK

Thank you for confirming in your letter of 9th May that the positions contained in the Joint Secretaries' note of the meeting on 5th May are acceptable to the FBU. This means that (with the exception of those matters where we have jointly agreed that negotiations should be completed by mid-June) there is now only one outstanding issue, namely the question of stand-down time under the existing shift duty system.

The Employers are considering the proposal made in your letter and, while there would be reservationsabout the words you have suggested, I am sure there is a willingness on both sides to resolve this issue as soon as possible.

I shall be in touch very soon to make arrangements for further discussions.

Yours sincerely

Phil White

Assistant Employers' Secretary

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